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Employers may skimp on wellness impact assessments

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Even the largest U.S. employers may be having trouble determining whether their wellness programs do much to keep participants well.

Analysts at Arthur J. Gallagher & Company have included data on employers’ efforts to evaluate wellness programs in a large collection of employer survey data. The survey managers received responses from about 3,000 U.S. employers of all sizes, including about 1,000 with wellness programs.

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The analysts found that, for example, 66 percent offer some kind of short-term disability (STD) insurance, 72 percent offer long-term disability (LTD), and the percentages are even higher for employers with at least 100 full-time equivalents (FTEs). 

The employer sponsors usually pay all of the STD and LTD premiums or none.

About 67 percent offer employer-paid dental coverage, 26 percent offer employee-paid dental, and 72 percent of the dental plans offered provide coverage for in-network orthodontic care.

In the section on wellness programs, the analysts report that 42 percent of the participating employers, and 70 percent with 1,000 or more FTEs, have wellness programs.

About 36 percent of the wellness programs at employers with 1,000 or more FTEs have budgets of at least $100,000.

But even many of the employers with 1,000 or more FTEs are sticking mainly with use-based measures to evaluate wellness programs, rather than measuring the effects of the programs on employees’ health.

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About 47 percent said they do get information about the employees’ weight, blood pressure or other health care test results. About 46 percent do what they can to see how wellness programs affect claims.

But just 25 percent track how wellness programs affect use of health care, and 7 percent look to see how wellness programs affect lost work time. Only 4 percent try to estimate the impact on lost productivity.

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